In the Hindi language, the term ‘Mahashay’ is used as a polite reference to a human being – however, the other connotation is that humans have an amazing ability to endure. ‘Maha’ means great and ‘shay’ refers to the ability to bear/tolerate. As the acute impacts of climate change are being felt, human reactions range from fear to apathy and inaction, extending even to campaigns to intensify denial.
Climate change is currently responsible for human migration, poverty, increased food prices, heat and flooding mortality. Overall, the impact is much higher than the combined statistics of mortality due to the world’s worsts diseases such as AIDS and cancer. Being ignorant is no longer an option. Between the alarmists and the deniers are the non-listeners, non-involved and most importantly, the vulnerable, who have till date not bothered about climate change.
It ’ s now
Climate change is the biggest threat facing our world right now; it’s a crisis that can’t be wished away. The impacts of climate change are already visible. There is a visible shift in seasons; glaciers are shrinking; sea levels are rising; habitats are shifting and the frequency of droughts, heatwaves and catastrophic events is increasing. Extreme weather events induced by climate change was ranked as the top risk by the
World Economic Forum in the Global Risks Report 2019. According to the IPCC Special Report 2018, the world is already 1.2°C warmer as compared to pre-industrial levels. Without immediate and widespread global action, limiting warming to 1.5°C will be exceedingly difficult. However, the transformational change required to make this happen has to come from multiple directions - be it government, businesses, citizens, or academia and civil society. The emissions gap is increasing
The WMO Greenhouse Gas Bulletin showed that globally averaged concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2) reached 407.8 parts per million in 2018, up from 405.5 parts per million (ppm) in 2017. The increase in CO2 from 2017 to 2018 was very close to that observed from 2016 to 2017 and just above the average over the last decade. Global levels of CO2 crossed the symbolic and significant 400 parts per million benchmark in 2015. The UN
Emissions Gap Report 2019 produced before the annual climate summit (COP 25 this year in Madrid) graphically shows the global GHG scenarios and the emissions gap by 2030. It is a call to action which loudly calls to attention – that we are on the brink of missing the opportunity to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees celsius. Unequal impact
Climate change is notorious for unequal impact. The most vulnerable are those with the lowest environmental footprint. A worsening rich-poor divide indicates a higher gap between consumerist individuals and nations who would like to take least action to help the poorer individuals and nations deal with the vagaries of climate change. This risk and vulnerability would result in undermining progress on the
global sustainable development agenda. The pace of global poverty reduction has slowed down and what is envisaged is increased conflict as the world struggles to respond to climate-induced vulnerabilities, Our future generation is at stake
The levels of heat-trapping greenhouse gases in the atmosphere have reached a record high, according to the World Meteorological Organisation. This continuing long-term trend means that future generations will be confronted with increasingly severe impacts of climate change, including rising temperatures, more extreme weather, water stress, sea-level rise and disruption to marine and land ecosystems.
We can create the CO-topia
The World Economic Forum asked its members to imagine a better world. What emerged was
CO-topia, a vision for 2030 and the fact that the possibility of a better world is more tantalising than all the doomsday pictures that climate alarmists are portraying with increasing alacrity.
There are three levers for achieving this – individual action, corporate action and government action. Individual action requires conscious consumption and delinking happiness from material things. Corporate action requires responsible operations and products. Government action is streamlining policies on land use, waste, air pollution and water resource management.
Incidentally, a world which will have limited its carbon emissions will be a happier world. In this utopic world, humans are healthier due to conscious consumption and relationships are stronger. The focus is on experience-based services as opposed to a material-based economy. Corporates provide products and services that have negligible environmental impact; and the government governs the commons for the benefit of all.
The question now is no longer about whether climate change is happening, but about how much should be tolerated. Climate change is the new reality of this age and there is no option but to face the music and take countermeasures.
Let not climate change test the human mettle of ‘Mahashay’. Instead, let’s embark on a vision of a cleaner and green tomorrow, which can happen only when each one of us bothered about climate change.
Sunita Purushottam is Head of Sustainability at Mahindra Lifespaces.